For the first time in five years, the most prominent symbol of Coney Island’s Astroland – the amusement park’s iconic rocket ship – has returned to the People’s Playground for display.
The Coney Island History Project announced this morning that the Astroland Rocket Ship was trucked back into the amusement district overnight after the group assumed control of the relic several days ago.
The rocket is the only surviving space “simulators” that once proliferated in Coney Island between the early 20th Century and the space age, the Coney Island History Project said. The organization won their bid to repurpose the “Star Flyer” – as it was originally known – as the centerpiece of a new exhibit about Coney Island’s space obsession throughout history.
The Star Flyer debuted in 1962 as a three-minute, 26-seat ride that rocked and shook thrill-seekers as they watched films of rocket rides. It was taken offline years later, and was later placed on the roof of boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s where, along with the Cyclone, Parachute Jump and Wonder Wheel, it became a staple of the playground’s skyline.
“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel. The Astroland Rocket has now returned to a place of honor beside the landmark Wonder Wheel, where it will be restored as an exhibit showcasing Coney Island’s fascination with space travel.”
When Astroland closed in 2008 to make way for Luna Park, Carol and Jerry Albert, the former park’s owners, donated the rocket to the city with the promise of making the centerpiece of the new amusement district.
The city put out a request for proposals to reactivate the icon, and the History Project answered and won the bid. The rocket will be in the group’s exhibit center in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and the cost of its move was covered by Carol Albert.
Wonder Wheel owners Steve and Dennis Vourderis plan to make it the centerpiece of their park’s annual celebration on August 9, and they’ll also oversee its restoration after it was seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The rocket has spent most of the past five years in storage.